How people pay in the USA – Fed Reserve Payments study 2016


The Federal Reserve has just reported their estimates of the total number and value of all noncash payments made in 2015 in the United States, both by consumers and businesses. The study provides insights on adoption trends for new payment methods. Main findings of the study may be considered under 3 key areas:

(1) Differences between consumer and business payment choices in 2015 and changes over the 15-year period since 2000

No surprise, check payments are being replaced with card payments and ACH transfers. In number, check payments dropped from  57.8% of non cash payments to 13.4%. By value the drop was from 66.7% to 15.4%. However this still remains high in comparison to leading European economies that have considered altogether doing away with checks.

Total noncash payments by households increased by around 94.7% over the 15 year period, again no surprise as this period from 2000 to 2015 precisely marks the growth period for electronic payments worldwide.

New methods studied included payments initiated via a mobile device (for instance mobile wallet), payments through specialized services for person-to-person payments, and the use of online or Ecommerce payment authentication services to help verify the payer and secure payment information.

(2) Adoption and intensity of use of different types of general-purpose payment cards in 2015, along with more recent changes since 2012

Consumer and Business payments differed in terms of popularity of payment type. Top four consumer payment types were non-prepaid debit cards, general-purpose credit cards, checks, and ACH debit transfers, with the first two categories substantially in the lead. The top four business payment types were ACH credit transfers, checks, general purpose credit cards, and non-prepaid debit cards. The number of checks written is still alarmingly high as compared to that in many Western economies such as the UK, that have made the transition to instant electronic payments.


The figure above, drawn from the Federal Reserve report illustrates the way in which US consumers and businesses pay and how this differs in terms of payment type.

(3) Growth in selected alternative payment initiation methods and services

Over the 15 year period there was strong growth in the number of mobile wallet payments, but online bill payment through banks increased only marginally as payments can now be made directly to billers. The figure below, extracted from the report shows the change from 2012 to 2015.


Although P2P and money transfer payments increased over the period, they remain very low by number. Online payment authentication methods on the other hand grew from 1.8 billion in 2012 to 3.4 billion in 2015.

The full study report from the Federal Reserve may be downloaded at The Federal Reserve Payments Study 2016: Recent Developments in Consumer and Business Payment Choices, June 2017.

Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid–Add your voice

In this interview Carol Realini, co-author of 'Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ tells how they use an innovative crowd-sourced solution to provide a deeper understanding of innovative financial services that are emerging to address the needs of unbanked and under-banked people around the world.

Q: Carol, could you let us know a bit about your new book – what’s it about?

fipKarl and I are fortunate to have been involved in financial inclusion projects around the world. We wanted to share how we see things changing, new models emerging and most importantly how this is happening differently in different places.

We thought it important that we provide a global view rather than focusing one market or one aspect – such as just Square or just Mobile POS, or just the USA.

We’re show-casing the best examples of tech-enabled financial inclusion from around the world.

Q: I’m interested in the way you are sourcing material – in a manner that is still pretty unique

Yes, although we have ourselves been in many of the countries where the new services are rapidly growing, we did not want to be limited in our thinking. By throwing the book open to contributions from around the world we expect to cover more ground and discover some of the breaking stories that will help create a good understanding of the state of play.

Q: Carol, how do you and Karl expect to make a difference with this book?

We believe the next 5 years will be a period of unprecedented change. Another 3 billion or more people will have access to the internet via mobile. Financial services will reach 1-2 billion more people in a similar timeframe. We want this book to help inspire people to understand more. We want the book to help people share about what they’ve achieved so we jointly celebrate their success and contemplate potential pitfalls together.

Q: How do people contribute to this initiative?

We have a campaign on for nominations for Global Financial Inclusion Pioneers. We would love to have more Europe and Africa nominations – we have extended the deadline to Dec 31, 2013. Full details are available at the Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid website. We’d like people to visit and nominate as well as submit their stories. This will help us showcase the best examples from across the world.


Carol Full AvatarCarol Realini is a successful serial entrepreneur who  dedicates her time to working with global pioneers in mobile banking & payments. Carol was a World Economic Forum 2010 Technology Pioneer.  Carol passionately supports entrepreneurship, banking for all, and women in technology. She is the author of the 5-Star-on-Amazon BankRUPT, a book about banking innovation in the US, and co-author of Financial Inclusion at the Bottom of the Pyramid.


Malala’s vision for Pakistan and Digital Money

Did you watch the amazing speech of Malala Yousafzai addressing the United Nations on July 12, 2013 as part of her campaign to ensure free compulsory education for every child? It is up to us to move from platitudes to action in realising her vision. How can Digital Money help?


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Get inside your competitor’s head with the Shift Thought Digital Money SAGE


Although mobiles and smartphones present an exciting new dimension for consumer payments, the Shift Thought Digital Money SAGE offers payments providers a panoramic view, so as to prepare for the eventual growth that is essential for building alternative payments services.

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European privacy action–what effect on the Google wallet business model?

Pressure mounts on Google, with the ICO (in concert with 27 data protection authorities across Europe) yesterday issuing their notice. How does this impact Google’s fundamental business model in payments, and what possible knock-on effects may we expect on new entrants with digital wallets based on similar models?

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Steep rise in online commerce and non-card payments causes rethink in UK, France

BRC’s Retail Cost of Payment Collection Survey for 2012 released in May 2013 indicates that PayPal and coupons have increased to a level that now requires separate reporting. This accounts to over 5% of transactions in 2012, as compared to 1.66% the previous year. There has been a steady change in the proportion of sales transactions by each payment method as shown in our graph based on BRC data.


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Apple iCloud Keychain – Digital Money services take to the cloud

Soon after May 2011, when there were a flurry of digital wallet announcements, such as Google Wallet, V.Me, Amex Serve and more, Shift Thought provided analysis to show how these fitted into the trend that we predicted, and continue to rigorously track since then.

This is a move from a mobile-centric approach to a convergent, if not integrated set of offers that become a powerful foundation for a closer relationship with your customers.


In June 2013, the Apple iCloud Keychain serves to once again underline this trend. By hosting key details on the cloud and offering single access across a host of devices, payment services from Apple seem to be in the mould of one of the “personas” in the Digital Money SAGE framework that describes wallets of the future.

The Google Wallet has already moved forward on this path. By merging with the Google Checkout and later rebranding to a single service, Google has instantaneously opened the doors to a powerful way of engaging with 7 billion people around the world. This of course is the power of adopting a strategy that recognises Digital Money in all its guises.

Shift Thought will be running a workshop on Digital Money at the PayExpo 2013 on the 18th of June in London, UK. We intend to run through the timeline of Digital Money, with special case studies to underline the trends, risks, challenges and the level of competition.

We hope this will give you concise round-up on what is happening, and the new axis on which services differentiate themselves across the world today.

We look forward to seeing you there!


Transitioning from social to e-commerce: not everyone makes it across

In a world where scale matters and players must continually reinvent themselves, it saddens us to see that not all make it through the metamorphosis.

Multiply Marketplace was a social networking service that first started in 2004 and built  a 11-million strong community around blogging, photo sharing, videos and more.

In 2012 they moved their base from Florida, USA to Indonesia. The task at hand was to offer e-commerce services to the 350 million strong market in Philippines and Indonesia, while also discontinuing their blog services.

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What impact will Digital Money have on employment?

The chief executive of Barclays, suggested during investor meetings that Barclays aims to become a self-oriented company, allowing staff to focus on added value. Antony Jenkins envisages a future in which the bank employs as few as 100,000 people (current strength ~140,000).  

While this is being positioned as blue-sky thinking rather than a statement of potential job cuts, it got me thinking about how the advent of Digital Money is likely to impact what is closest to our hearts at Shift Thought, namely the creation of jobs world-wide.

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